Coronavirus News: New York City Council passes package of 'urgently needed protections' for restaurant industry

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The New York City Council on Wednesday passed a number of measures to help restaurants, bars and clubs reopen safely as the peak of the coronavirus pandemic wanes.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and the NYC Hospitality Alliance hosted a virtual news conference Wednesday on the future of the nightlife industry.

"Our restaurants are part of our identity as New Yorkers," Johnson said.

The package of legislation includes:
--Capping third party delivery platform fees
--Prohibiting third-party delivery services from charging restaurants for telephone orders with customers that did not result in an actual transaction during the call
--Forgiving sidewalk cafe franchise fees
--Protecting small business owners from personal liability clauses in commercial leases

"I don't see how the city of New York economy fully recovers if our restaurants and nightlife industry isn't at the core of that recovery," NYC Hospitality Alliance Director Andrew Rigie said.

The first step to that recovery is the package of bills, which caps delivery fees at 15% from third parties like Grubhub and Uber Eat and makes it illegal for the platforms to charge calls that don't result in a food order.

"Delivery fees at 30% were killing this business," said Melba Wilson, owner of Melba's Restaurant in Harlem. "It was killing my business. It was killing so many small business."

The legislation also adds protections from commercial landlords.

"Imagine losing your business because of COVID, through no fault of your own," Johnson said. "A potential landlord could go after all of your personal property, your life savings ,your home, all of your assets."

And when restaurants finally reopen, the council plans to eliminate sidewalk fees so restaurant goers can continue social distancing.

"If we can use outdoor space, going into the spring and summer, even in the fall, it would greatly help them generate additional revenue," Rigie said.

Anything will help, restaurateurs say, especially with projections that 25% of restaurants may never reopen due to the pandemic shutdown.

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